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High tension

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Those of you who enjoy historic motorsport as well as more modern automotive activities will appreciate that engine spark-ignition systems have come a long way over the years. From the inefficient magneto systems of the early years – which were fine so long as you could generate sufficient energy at cranking speeds – through single-coil battery systems to multiple coil-on-plug devices, the principles involved in generating a high voltage to the spark plug may not have changed,...


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Top-level motorsport now demands that electrical faults can no longer cause retirements or loss in car performance. For Formula One, the exponential rise in electronics in means that connecting up the various sections of loom to the ECUs and sensors has become critical. In recent years this connectivity has been driven by new systems, such as a standard ECU and KERS. There is then a further rise in complexity as the new 2013 ECU has an even greater capacity for sensors. Then next year the...

Electronically controlled differentials

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Developed at the dawn of the motor car, the driveline differential was designed to allow the driven wheels to rotate at different speeds but still apply torque to the driving wheels. While not essential when travelling in a straight line, when traversing a curve where (assuming no tyre slip) the driven wheels are rotating at different speeds, the absence of one can give the vehicle undesirable handling characteristics. Delivering an equal torque to each of the driven wheels, the torque to...

Two into one does go

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When I was a schoolboy, during mathematics lessons on the subject of ‘long division’ I always remember being told that two into one doesn’t go. The rules of mathematics were something to be followed without question, but these days of course I now know differently. Because when it comes to electronic sensors, particularly when weight or space is the concern or for safety-critical applications, then two into one certainly does go. The most obvious example of this is when two...

The wiring loom

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Providing power and signal cabling to every extremity of the car is the job of the wiring loom. But as the need for ever-tighter packaging in a Formula One car contradicts the spiralling complexity of the electronics, so the wiring loom has an ever-tougher brief to meet. Connecting up the FIA-spec ECU and power box to all the electronic subsystems, sensors and actuators around the car, means the loom literally extends to every corner of the car. Although most of the major electronic boxes...